Critic Reviews



Based on 15 critic reviews provided by
For all its noble intentions, though, the movie struggles to transcend broad outlines: Its characters are strictly symbols, timeworn archetypes of good and evil as threadbare and familiar as the artfully faded calicos and denim on their backs.
As thrilling as it is that Franco got In Dubious Battle made — the title comes from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” — and as impressive as the cast list is on paper, his inability to spot star power and screen charisma in actors younger than himself lets him and Steinbeck down.
The movie gives us bits and pieces of drama, but in a larger way it doesn’t invite us in.
There is not a lot of risk-taking involved in the visual storytelling or in trying to find a cinematic equivalent of the novel’s style, making In Dubious Battle a rather classical period piece for the most part, though one with at least one very solid performance at its center.
It’s maybe Franco’s best-crafted film to date, and also maybe his dullest.
A film that, after its initial promise, descends, at times, into TV-historical-drama mannerisms.
The surfeit of familiar faces is a poor substitute for Steinbeck’s psychological astuteness, his rich understanding of the way human beings respond, individually and collectively, when they are backed into a corner.
It is too flat-footed and sloppy to explore the obvious parallels between then and now, and the movie is peppered with gratuitous star cameos that distract rather than enlighten. At least it means well.
Slant Magazine
Bits of editorializing dialogue throughout James Franco's In Dubious Battle suggest the resonant film that might’ve been.
This one even comes with a freebie: It’s got “dubious” right there in the title. But instead of being sloppily miscalculated (the “Franco touch”), this attempt at a Depression-era labor drama in the vein of John Sayles just bores its way through almost two hours of screen time, never rising above anonymity.

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